For hiking: There used to be a bloke named Lyndon Punt (there might still be a bloke named Lyndon Punt ) wrote a short weekly column in one of the toilet papers here about walks and hikes all over the island. These were eventually compiled into a slim volume that was available in Eslite, among other places. Don’t know if its still in print or available, but it has concise directions, including bus routes, road numbers, etc., simple (and sometimes misleading hand-drawn maps of the trails, descriptions of any outstanding features, etc. – even some color photos for all you skeptics who don’t believe Taiwan has any beauty . Covers everything from easy 2-hour Sunday strolls in the mountains around Taipei up to multi-day backpacking trips in the central mountain range. Worth buying if you can find it. I think its called “Hiking in Taiwan.”
I can attest to many of the hikes.
Ever been to “Monkey Trail?” This is our own name, I don’t know the official one.
Go up past Wulai for about 20 km to the village of Fushan, take the first left through the village, which takes you down across the river and up the other side. Park when you can’t drive any further and look for the trail head, which is easy to spot. This trail winds deep into the river valley through bamboo groves and broadleaf forest, through stands of red cypress, across numerous mountain streams and never more than a few hundred yards above the main river. Eventually it comes right down to the river, where there are fanstastic swimming holes with fresh, clean water (no human habitation up there). The trail leads eventually to the Fushan Forestry Research Area near Ilan, where you can have fun evading the rangers, who really hate hikers coming through. This is a good overnighter, but you have to really wrap up your food carefully or the monkeys’ll come in the night and steal anything you leave lying around.
Another good one also starts at Fushan village. Go a few yards past the left turn I already mentioned and look down to your left towards the river. You’re looking for an old suspension footbridge. Cross it and just follow your nose. This trail takes you (uphill all the way, no water available so bring your own) 17k to Lalashan, home to 2,000-year-old trees and a lovely mountain village hard on the shoulder at the top of a really big mountain. A little bit touristy on the weekend (NOTHING like Wulai, though) but good little noodle shops right across the (only) street from a stunning viewpoint where you can sit looking down at the clouds as they creep across the valley below. You can see for miles and miles. Several cheap hotels, also. From there, you can take a bus back to Sanhsia next day.
There are many, many more hikes like this all over this dirty, shitty island